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You are here: Home | Water resources | Agenda | The politics of water

India's water future: Dry days ahead

By Dr Sudhirendar Sharma

In just 50 years a water-rich nation has been reduced to a water-insecure one. By 2025, the per capita availability of water is likely to slip below the critical mark of 1,000 cubic metres. And with 82% of our villages overdrawing groundwater to meet their needs and cities ferrying water from peri-urban areas, India is close to exhausting its groundwater reserves. What has gone wrong?

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2015: 334 million Indians will still lack access to safe water supply

By Darryl D'Monte

Inequities in water availability are a reflection of unequal development within the country. 13% of Delhi's citizens do not get water supply every day; 40% of households in Madhya Pradesh are not supplied even 40 litres per person per day. Even if we achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving the population without access to drinking water and sanitation by 2015, 244 million people in rural India and 90 million in urban India will still not have access to safe, sustainable water supply

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30 litres for some, 1,600 for others: Inequities in Delhi's water supply

By Arun Kumar Singh

An average room in a five-star hotel in Delhi consumes 1,600 litres of water every day. VIP residences consume over 30,000 litres per day. But 78% of Delhi's citizens, who live in sub-standard settlements, struggle to collect or buy 30-90 litres per capita per day

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Beg, buy or steal: Scrounging for water in Delhi

By Sunetra Lala

In Harijan Basti near Vasant Kunj, Delhi, Simla Devi pays Rs 20 per day for water siphoned off from Delhi Jal Board tankers. Roop Devi from Navjeevan Camp in Govindpur says those who can't afford to buy water secretly fill it up from Bhoomi Camp late at night

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The price the poor pay in Mumbai, Pune

Daily wage-earners pay up to 20% of their wages on water; slum-dwellers pay Rs 5 per can of water; others tap into water lines illegally, or pay the local mafia for the supply...These are stories that illustrate the political economy of water that operates in the slums of Mumbai and Pune

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The political economy of public sector water utilities reform

By Karen Coelho

Water reform is a Trojan horse utilised by governments, commercial interests and international aid agencies, to turn public resources into profitable enterprises. Today's water wars are sited in cities, not agrarian basins. They are being fought over the control of municipal water systems and services. This article looks at the political economy of public sector water utilities reform in Chennai

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Stealing farmers' water to quench Chennai's big thirst

By R Srinivasan

A Rs 600-crore tanker industry is capitalising on Chennai's acute water scarcity. Over 13,000 tankers are mining the surrounding farmlands for water. With agriculture in crisis and groundwater levels insufficient for farming, farmers find it easier to live off the money they earn from private water operators

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Dry village, lush water park: Public resources for private profit

By P Sainath

Women in water-starved Bazargaon village in Vidarbha, Maharashtra, walk 15 km a day to fetch water. There is just one public well in this village of 3,000, and that is mostly dry. But the nearby water park, with ice-skating and 18 different kinds of water slides and games, has more water than Bazargaon can dream of

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Who pays for our giant follies?

By Himanshu Thakkar

In the years following Independence, India's politicians and bureaucrats seemed to have become victims of what Nehru termed the disease of gigantism, building large dams as monuments to themselves. Four thousand large projects later, and despite huge gaps between promises and performance, that tendency continues, reflected in the recent plan to link India's rivers. How are these decisions to promote large dams taken? Who profits from them and who pays?

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Rivers for sale: The privatisation of common property resources

By Rifat Mumtaz
     Manshi Asher
     Amitabh Behar

Three case studies from Chhattisgarh -- the privatisation of the Sheonath river, the insatiable use of water from the Kelu river by an industry, and the construction of a private dam on the Kurkut river -- clearly illustrate how the political economy is promoting the commodification of water, cornering water for the economic interests of the few at the cost of local communities

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Giants in the water market

By Manoj Nadkarni

When a public good such as water is treated as an economic good, with an economic value and price, water is set to become, like oil, a precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations. No wonder corporations worldwide are battling over a $ 287 billion global water market. This article looks at the major international players in the water market, and charts their rapid growth

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Boond-boond mein paisa: Bottled water is big business

By Laxmi Murthy

Corporate control over water and water distribution in India is growing rapidly: the packaged water business is worth Rs 1,000 crore, and it's growing at a huge 40-50% annually. Around 1,200 bottling plants and 100 brands of packaged water across the country are battling over the market, overdrawing groundwater, and robbing local communities of their water resources and livelihoods

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Robbing Paul to pay Peter: Industrial water vs drinking water

By Nityanand Jayaraman

India's National Water Policy of 2002 accords top priority to drinking water. In practice, however, states seem preoccupied with meeting industrial water needs. In Tirupur, Tamil Nadu, 737 textile units consume around 90 million litres -- or 7,500 tanker loads -- of water every day. The unregulated mining of water has sent groundwater levels plummeting to below 800 feet. What is the logic of setting up water-intensive units in water-stressed areas? In accommodating industry, is the government prepared to sacrifice the drinking water needs of entire districts?

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Privatisation: Getting to the bottom of a muddled debate

By Vijay Paranjpye

Let's face it: water is a commodity. There's nothing wrong with privatisation per se. The debate gets muddled when we fail to see the difference between the privatisation of water, which implies ownership of the resource, and the privatisation of service delivery, such as the purification or distribution of water

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The politicisation of water

By Ramaswamy R Iyer

It is greed that lies at the heart of water conflicts. Agreements, accords and treaties may temporarily bring peace, but the conflict will erupt again unless we re-define 'development' and learn to view water as a scarce and precious resource to be conserved, protected and used with extreme economy

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Rural distress, urban greed: Interview with Anupam Mishra

By Sunetra Lala

Gandhian and environmental activist Anupam Mishra has watched closely the ability of local communities to build and sustain ingenious systems for life-support and resource management. He has also watched the state usurping those resources. In this interview, he discusses what happens when, in the race to modernity, the autonomy and rights of the people are abandoned, the rights of ownership are vested only with the government or corporations, and all resources become capital to be exploited

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Possible solutions: The middle path?

By K J Joy and Suhas Paranjape

The debate about water continues to be polarised between the view that water is a social good that must be dispensed by the state, and the opposing view that water is an economic good that must be treated as a commodity. Is it time to get away from the sterile debate around social good and economic good, big versus small, and adopt the 'integrationist' viewpoint where water is seen as both a social and an economic need?

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